Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Good riddance to the decade

It occurred to me that sometime in the last ten years, a drastic change took place. And not just in broadcasting.

Careers became jobs. Work that was once fun had become a chore.

Blame it on 9/11, the Internet, the economy, or whatever. We all seem to be hamsters on a wheel. Everything depends on the bottom line. Company loyalty disappeared from both directions.

How did we get here? Well, it was a gradual process, and if you look back you can see the tide slowly turning.

The 50's: The age of innocence. Life was fun, music lyrics didn't hide any deep inner meaning.

The 60's: Innocence died with JFK. The decade was turbulent, and for the first time people really began to distrust the government.

The 70's: A heck of a lot of fun if you owned a white suit, knew how to dance and lived in the New York area. Otherwise, sitting in gas lines in 1973 and 1979 was a pain and showed us how much we depended on other countries. Inflation ran out of control, and a big recession hits the last part of the decade.

The 80's: A tremendously fun decade in which budgets had no end... well, until around 1989. Then someone turned off the money faucet and consultants became more powerful. Smart owners saw the writing on the wall and started dumping stations for huge profits.

The 90's: Cutbacks and drastic changes in the newsroom. Live shots for no good reason start to dominate a newscast. Producers with no experience were given more control than veteran field crews. Franchise reporters (feature, consumer, etc.) began to disappear.

The 00's: The Internet starts to kill the golden goose. Cell phones become electronic leashes. Live shots are out of control. Reality show "news" starts creeping into newscasts, along with YouTube video and security camera clips. Cutbacks and layoffs get really bad toward the end of the decade. Consultants start killing sports departments. And the one-man-band thing throws quality out the window.

So where do we go from here? Will January 1, 2010 be a fresh start?

It all starts with you. It has to start from the bottom up, not the top down. Because the top doesn't care.

Years ago we got a new ND who treated people like dirt. I was out on a story one day with a terrific photog who had just gotten chewed out for no good reason. I noticed he was going all out for this story.

"I'm surprised you even care after what happened this morning," I said.

"I've got too much pride to let some jerk affect my work," was the reply.

And that, in a nutshell, is the attitude that can save this business.

Most of you are overworked, underpaid, and not being treated well. You're wondering what the future holds, or if the business even has a future.

If it's going to have a future, it starts with you.

No matter what happens around you, you have to block out the negative and focus on your job.

Because when all is said and done, you're really working for yourself.

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